Back when we’d take trips up and down the coast in the early 1960s, the idea was that the more guys you could fit in the car, the more gas money you had at a lower cost per person.
On one trip to Rincon, Willy Lenahan drove his ’49 Chevy panel work truck, the back part of which was divided horizontally into two equal levels by a two-by-four-framed plywood bed. That made its capacity two in front, two or three in the rear on top, and the same number below. Each group was isolated from the others, but that didn’t matter much. On this particular trip we had two up, three down, and two more in front.
Everything north of Point Mugu told us we’d made the right call. The surf was good, the crowd light. After five hours in the water, we were toast. Deciding it was time to leave, we double stacked our boards, roped them to the racks, then piled into the truck.
The feeling inside was jovial. A good surf session will do that. Friendly jabs between the truck’s three compartments went back and forth. “Hey, Willy, who’s yo’ momma?” After an hour, we were passing through old Oxnard and about to hang a left onto PCH, which would take us home to Huntington, when Willy shouted at Jim Barker.
“Hey, Barkwit, what was that chick’s name at the party last night?”
“Fuckin’ Barker! What was her name?”
“Hey, Roger, is Barker up there with you? Punch him hard for me.”
“Not up here!” Roger croaked, holding his breath.
“Hey, Davey, is dickhead down there with you?”
“Nah,” answered Davey.
The truck went stone quiet for another mile until someone started laughing. Pretty soon everyone was roaring until we were all wheezing for breath. Riding shotgun, I finally posed the crucial question: “Should we turn around?”
There was no way we were going back, though. Everyone shouted, “Screw him! Keep going.” So screw him we did, and kept along. We felt bad. But shit, he missed the bus!
We continued down Coast Highway, eventually reaching the last part of our journey as we passed Seal Beach and made it into Sunset. We finally approached the ramshackle 1930s bungalow at the corner of 12th Street where Barker lived, an infamous flophouse known among our group as the Animal Farm.
“Pull over!” I shouted. “Let’s clue them in so if Barker calls, they’ll already know what’s up.”
That seemed like the right thing to do, so Willy pulled up to the picket fence lining the front yard. I jumped out and had started up the cement steps to the porch when the front door opened and out stepped Barker. Shaken by his appearance, we all were flooded with sudden guilt.
“How’d you beat us here?” I managed.
“Well,” Barker started, leaning against a post at the top of the stairs, playing his hand, “when you buttholes stranded me 150 miles from home with no ride, no money, no jacket, no shoes, and carrying my surfboard, the only thing I could do was stick my thumb out. Before I knew it, this pretty lady tooling a cherry Cadillac convertible with the top down pulls over and asks me where I’m going. I tell her, ‘Quite a ways south.’ She says, ‘Will your board fit into the back? If so, jump in!’ Turns out she knew some guys that surfed and she felt really bad about you pricks abandoning me, so she drove me all the way here. We even stopped for chocolate malts and cheeseburgers. It was so bitchin’ in that Caddy, and you assholes were crammed into that shipping crate. So thanks for nothing, dickheads! You owe me my gas money back!”
Feeling better, we got back in and trucked the last 15 minutes to the pier.
[Feature Image: Rincon, 1966. No 4-mils, no booties, no goon cords, no problem. Sun-soaked rocks and campfires warm chilled bones between go-outs.]